Washington Suppressed

         After reading Ruth and Augustus Goetz's 1948 play and watching William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress, based on Henry James's 1880 novel, Washington Square, I was left with a sense of appreciation for being able to make my own decisions about Catherine and her relationships to her father and her lover in both versions. I thought that it was very interesting to see the differences between the endings in the play/movie and in the novel, and to see the overall transformation of Catherine's character in both works.

         Throughout the entirety of this novel and movie, James's character Catherine Sloper (played by Olivia de Havilland) is expected to be subservient and dutiful to her father at all times. Many times Catherine has to keep her own feelings and emotions to herself so she does not appear to be a disrespectful and disobedient daughter to her father, Dr. Sloper (depicted by Ralph Richardson). Dr. Sloper is disapproving of Catherine's choice for a husband because he thinks Morris Townsend (portrayed by Montgomery Clift) wants Catherine for her large inheritance and therefore objects to his daughter's marriage. Dr. Sloper's character is very critical of Catherine because he feels she lacks talent, cleverness and the beauty that her mother once had; thus, at times he is very unsympathetic towards Catherine. I thought that these traits were what made Catherine's character all the more realistic and human.

         In the novel's ending, Catherine takes her father's advice and declines Morris's proposal for marriage. This ending illustrated Catherine's weak demeanor and showed her being loyal to her father's wishes even after his death. In the novel Catherine never stands up for her own beliefs, and it was very hard to see her behavior change throughout the book.

         In the movie ending, it was very evident to see Catherine transform from a quiet submissive daughter to a more self- aware, outspoken character. This is evident towards the ending of the movie when Catherine begins to talk back to her father, speak freely about how she felt, and at times joke with her Aunt Penniman. In one scene, Catherine even refuses to go to her father's deathbed because she is so upset.

         Overall, I felt that the movie adaptation and ending was much better than the ending provided in the novel Washington Square. Most film versions of novels that I have ever seen have failed to do any novel justice, but I personally feel that this movie version was successful at accomplishing its goal. I think that The Heiress appealed to a more modern audience and that the change found in Catherine's character at the end of the film was absolutely needed.

Whitney Bradley

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